Brassaï moved to Paris in 1924. He slept all day and roamed the streets at night, photographing the moonlit Montparnasse quarter and beyond. Street toughs grinned broadly for him, prostitutes coyly raised thinly-lined eyebrows, and young couples necking on benches ignored the photographer entirely. Brassaï may have been called boring by his friend (and famed writer) Henry Miller, but his work is everything and anything but dull. There are no grittier, livelier images of Depression-era, European nightlife than what Brassaï captured. If you like black and white gangster movies, unflinching photography, or just want a conversation-starter of a coffee table book, try Brassaï: Paris Nocturne.
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Think you know WWII history? You might be surprised! The Ghost Army explains how the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops – made up of artists, sound technicians, and radiomen – created the grand illusion of American troops that held the line against German forces in major battles of the war. Amazing!
Anyone who clicked through the TV channels from 1983 – 1994 surely crossed paths with Bob Ross. You know: Bob Ross – the painter with the soft voice and the big afro. His 30-minute PBS show, The Joy of Painting, taught amateur artists how to landscape paint using the wet-on-wet oil painting technique. Ross brought a positive mental attitude, humor, camp, and easy-to-follow methods of art-making to the public. Bob Ross: The Happy Painter explores how Ross starring in a TV commercial for local painting classes turned into a 15 million dollar empire. Celebrities like Terrence Howard, Jane Seymour, and Brad Paisley discuss Ross’ life and legacy in this feel-good documentary.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul
Author: Karen Abbott
Page Count: 356
Tone: Engaging, dramatic, well-researched
1. Do you see the Everleigh sisters as criminals?
2. The sisters elevated their craft. Down another path in history this elevation could have led to legalization and taxation of prostitution in Chicago. How different do you think Chicago would be were that to have happened?
3. Do you think sex work was empowering or exploitive to the butterflies? Explain. Do you think sex work was empowering for other brothel house workers?
4. Do you think more women were “white slaves” or prostitutes during this era?
5. Would you have considered becoming an Everleigh butterfly?
6. Why do you think the sisters outshined their competition so fiercely?
7. Do you think there was a stronger sister?
8. Why do you think the sisters didn’t ever (re)marry?
9. Was there a madam in this book you admired?
10. What about a madam you hated?
11. Are there any heroes in this story?
12. What about villains?
13. What do you think of the reformers’ techniques? Were they effective?
14. What do you think of Ernest Bell, the preacher? Did you find him more often in the wrong or in the right?
15. What did you think of Clifford Roe, the lawyer obsessed with white slavery?
16. Some folks believed that brothels and prostitution kept “respectable” women safe from rape and the “baser” fantasies of their husbands. What is your reaction to this?
17. Were you surprised by the caliber of patrons at the Everleigh Club? (Ex: Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Dreiser, the Prince of Prussia, etc.)
18. How did the Everleighs handle racial issues at their club?
19. Do you think people’s sexuality has changed all that much since the Everleighs’ time?
20. Do you think the Everleigh sisters would be successful today? How do you think their business might be different?
21. Does this book mirror present day society at all?
22. Would you have wanted to live in Chicago during this era?
23. Sin in the Second City is a work of nonfiction. Do you think you would’ve enjoyed it more as a novel? Why or why not?
24. Has your perspective of sex workers changed? Elaborate.
25. What is one story you can take away from Sin in the Second City and use for cocktail party chatter?
Sin in the Second City website
Book discussion questions at Reading Group Guides
Claire Zulkey interviews Karen Abbott
Freakonomics interviews Karen Abbott
Windy City Writers interviews Karen Abbott
New York Times review of Sin in the Second City
If you liked Sin in the Second City, try…
The New Year is almost upon us and resolutions are on everyone’s brains. Maybe, just maybe, 2014 can be the year that you finally give yourself the time to learn how to dance. Watching Dancing With the Stars is ok…but what if you could dance like the stars?
Click here to see a list of instructional dance DVDs.
M. Night Shyamalan wants you to be interested in education reform. The director who made The Sixth Sense, The Village, and other Hollywood blockbusters, has become an armchair education expert. I Got Schooled is the accumulation of Shyamalan spending five years funding non-partisan studies on how to close the achievement gap in the United States. In this quick, conversational read, Shyamalan outlines five keys to succeeding schools. These keys range from eliminating underachieving personnel to keeping kids in the classroom longer. If you like breezy reads that make you think long after you’ve put them down, try Shyamalan’s idealistic I Got Schooled.
Marina Abramović is a New York-based performance artist. Her art examines bodily limits, passion, violence, and identity. Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present is a documentary that follows Abramović during her 2010 Museum of Modern Art installation. MOMA celebrated Abramović’s 30-year career by recreating her most famous performance art pieces and showcasing a new, 90-day installation. Over 750,000 people attended the show. Abramović’s performance art is not always easily understandable. Much of the time – especially early in her career – it seemed shocking…but through shock the artist forces us to engage, to pause, to question, to be in a moment. If you like art documentaries or movies that put you in a thinking mood, try Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present.
Anne of Research Services recommends On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the 21st Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka:
When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as pope in March 2013, he was a mystery to most of the world. In Argentina, however, he was a significant figure who believed in interreligious dialogue. His discussions with the Rabbi Abraham Skorka in Buenos Aires were published in Argentina in 2010. On Heaven and Earth is an English translation of this work. It offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of these learned, thoughtful, sincere men who share their views without reservation. Skorka and Pope Francis discuss 29 challenging world issues with respect and frankness. These conversations allow the reader to develop their own views on these important topics. On Heaven and Earth is a thoughtful book for those with or without belief.
Tis the season for holiday parties! Fab up your look with Glitter and Glam: Dazzling Makeup Tips for Date Night, Club Night, and Beyond by Melanie Mills. Mills, the Emmy award-winning makeup artist for Dancing With the Stars, showcases opulent, artful makeup through step-by-step tutorials and high fashion photos. From skin care basics to professional makeup techniques for all skin tones, Mills gives novices and beauty junkies alike the tools to create a stunning face. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a look right the first time you attempt it. Remember, makeup takes practice and having the right makeup brushes matters! Check out Glitter and Glam to be extra glitzy while standing under the mistletoe this Christmas.
And for the fashion-minded suit-wearers out there, check out The Handbook of Style by Esquire Magazine. It collects tips and tricks for putting your most dapper foot forward.
Now that the first photo of Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden has been released, you will want to read about the legendary crime for yourself. The final days of Graphic Novels Month is an opportune time to delve into The Borden Tragedy: A Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder. The 21st Century has no monopoly on sensationalized true crime stories, and this volume of the Victorian Murder series illustrates the facts and questions as they are known. The heavy black frames and recurring use of patterned lines add to both the ominous tone and the historic feel. We may never know for certain who got away with murder that fateful day, but Rick Geary presents the case with startling clarity.